Wanting to make a hydrating cream, but not ready for emulsions and preservatives quite yet? Make your own DIY whipped body butter, the right way!
What is a Body Butter?
A body butter is normally a type of oil-based cream that doesn't incorporate any water as a lotion would. Body butters are usually comprised of a mixture of oils and butters that are often whipped together to give them a lighter texture.
The advantages of body butter over a lotion
Many people prefer to make body butters because they can be made without a preservative or an emulsifier. That makes them easier to make for beginner MIY-ers (make-it-yourself-ers).
Because they are denser than lotions, they are also more occlusive, meaning that they can create a barrier that helps keep moisture from leaving your skin. That also makes them last longer on your skin than a lotion.
Lastly, because they lack water, they also normally have a longer shelf life.
The disadvantages of using a body butter
On the other hand, because body butters aren't composed mainly of water like most lotions are, they also tend to be a lot more expensive to make. The entirety of your product is an active ingredient!
They can also feel too dense or too greasy to some people.
Because they don't have water in them, they don't incorporate as much moisture deep into the skin. You can combat that problem by either applying your body butter over wet skin; or, if you have very dry skin, you could even consider applying it over a lotion.
Watch how to make a Whipped Body Butter
How to use body butter
Who is body butter best for?
Body butters provide a barrier to keep moisture from escaping from your skin. That makes them ideal for people who live in areas with dry climates.
Those who have very dry skin, or area of dry patches like rough elbows or heels, will probably also appreciate the heavier, creamier feel of a body butter over a lotion for those rough, dry areas.
When I have severely dry and rough hands, which often happens at this time of winter, I like to apply body butter to my hands at night time and go to sleep with cloth gloves over top. That really helps soften and moisturize. Those with dry, rough feet could consider doing the same thing, using socks to keep the butter in place.
Can body butter be used on your face?
While you can use body butter on your face, most people will find it too heavy for using it there comfortably. Because it tends to sit on top of the skin, rather than be absorbed into the skin like a lotion, it would probably leave your skin looking slightly oily or greasy.
How to make a whipped body butter
Because cocoa butter, and even the lighter butters like shea and mango butter, tend to be on the dense side, it isn't as pleasant to apply them to your skin as-is. They glide on much easier and have a much lighter feel if you whip them as they cool.
How to make your whipped body butter less greasy
Many people, especially those with oily skin and those who are used to using lotion, feel that body butter is too greasy.
One way to help reduce that sensation is to add a starch to the body butter when it's in its melted state. In my body butter recipe below, I chose arrowroot starch to help reduce the greasiness. If you don't have arrowroot, you can experiment with other starches like tapioca starch, corn starch, or rice starch instead.
Another way to make a less greasy body butter is to avoid using oils that are slow absorbing like avocado oil or castor oil. Some of the faster absorbing oils are grapeseed oil, macadamia nut oil, apricot kernel oil, and rosehip oil. You could experiment with using one of those, or a combination of those, as your liquid oil, to make your body butter feel less greasy.
How to keep your body butter from feeling grainy
Certain butters like shea butter and mango butter (to a lesser extent) can get grainy when they are melted and slowly solidify again.
The best way to prevent that from happening is to speed up the cool-down process. This can be achieved by freezing the body butter or placing it in an ice bath to cool it more quickly. To whip your butter, you'll be placing it in the freezer for a few minutes, taking it out to whip it, and adding it back to the freezer again.
You'll continue that process until the butter holds its shape.
How to fix body butter that is too hard
To get the perfect texture, you can play with a ratio of hard butters like cocoa butter, softer butters like shea butter or mango butter, and an oil (or two, or three) to soften things up.
The hard butters will add to the occlusive barrier of the butter and help raise the melting point up slightly. Cocoa butter has a melting point of around 95-98ºF (35-37ºC), which is higher than mango and shea butters whose melting points are closer to 86-90ºF (30-32ºC). That's important because if you are doing the work to whip your body butter, you don't want it to melt and re-solidify into a hard, flat, dense cream if you leave it out on a warm summer day. Too much cocoa butter, though, could make your body butter feel waxy and hard to apply.
The lighter butters will help soften up the mixture, but they tend to have relatively low melting points and they don't provide the same barrier as the cocoa butter would.
Any oils added will help soften the mixture and make it glide better. Too much oil, though, will mean that it won't solidify enough to make a stable whipped butter.
Luckily, if you aren't happy with your mixture, it's pretty easy to fix. You can remelt it and add more oil to a hard body butter, or more cocoa butter to a softer one. Then, you just go through the cooling and whipping process again until you have the perfect whipped body butter.
If you do remelt a finished body butter, keep in mind that the essential oils and Vitamin E are more delicate ingredients. Try to re-heat your butter gently over a double boiler to keep them as intact as possible.
If you feel that the product has lost its scent, you could try adding a little more of the essential oils without going overboard. Essential oils can cause sensitivity when used in large amounts. (That's especially important with some of the more allergenic oils or those that are more prone to cause irritation to the skin).
How long will my body butter keep?
Because no water is incorporated into the recipe, you don't need to add a preservative, and the shelf life of body butters is relatively long. Certain oils will have a much longer shelf life than others, so keep that in mind when you are formulating your mixture. With a body butter, the shelf life isn't about safety from microbial growth like it is when we make a lotion, but, with time, the oils and fats can go rancid and start to smell a bit “off.”
If you want to calculate a “best before date” for your body butter, I'd suggest that you go by the expiration date given for the oils you are using in your body butter. The shelf life of the oils you are choosing normally can give you a general idea of how long your final mixture will keep.
The addition of antioxidants like Vitamin E (when used at somewhere around 0.5% of the recipe) will help extend the life of your oils somewhat, but it's really difficult to know by how much. It really depends on the types of oils you are using, how fresh they were when you used them to make your body butter, and how old they were when you added the vitamin E to them.
Adding a little vitamin E to a product can help keep the oils from going rancid as quickly. Adding too much, though, can have the opposite effect. That's why I think you should stick around 0.5% of the recipe and, if you rebatch your butter and decide to add more, try to keep the combined amount at around or below 1%.
DIY Whipped Body Butter Recipe
Basic Whipped Body Butter
- Heat the double boiler until the butters have melted.
- Add in the arrowroot starch, and mix together thoroughly until it is well incorporated into your mixture. Pour the mixture into a stainless steel bowl that will fit into your freezer.
- Place the mixture into the freezer or into an ice bath to cool the mixture as quickly as possible. This will help prevent a grainy texture in the final product.
- After a few minutes have passed, remove the mixture from the freezer and use a spatula to wipe the solidified butters off the sides of the pan. Beat everything together.
- If the mixture is relatively cool, you can now add your heat sensitive ingredients: the vitamin E and the essential oils. Whip them together with the rest of the ingredients, and place the mixture back in the freezer again for a few more minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the freezer again and, once again, use a spatula to remove the solidified butter from the sides of the bowl. Use the beater to whip everything together.
- Continue the cycle of freezing and whipping until the mixture has solidified enough to keep its shape.
- You can now spoon or pipe your mixture into their final storage containers. I like using glass jars with metal lids for body butters.